KOZHIKODE: Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 1,798 of the 26,700-plus Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers - the foot soldiers in the state’s battle against COVID-19 - have so far tested positive for the virus in the state.
Two of them succumbed to the disease, in Malappuram and Alappuzha. This is the figure estimated, as on May 27, by the women workforce's biggest union - the ASHA Workers' Union (CITU). “Malappuram registered the maximum cases of COVID among us, at 336, and Palakkad the least, at 40," said Prema PP, state president of the union.
A majority of the cases were reported during the second wave, she said. Malappuram tops in number of ASHA workers in the state, at over 3,000.
Though everyone agrees that ASHA workers are right in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, they tend to figure last while being provided with protective items like facemask, hand sanitiser and gloves.
"We have to buy facemask and sanitiser on our own. There won't be enough for us after doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers get them," lamented N Lakshmi, an ASHA worker in Kumbadaje panchayat in Kasaragod.
Shajimol, an ASHA worker at Thirunelly in Wayanad, said they received 500ml of sanitiser in January and the next supply happened only after three months, and that was cut short to 250ml. The life-saving equipment provided to each health centre is short of requirement, she added. This when these women have to visit Covid positive people at their houses on a daily basis.
An ASHA worker gets Rs 9,000 per month now, comprising an honorarium of Rs 6,000, incentive of Rs 2,000 and a COVID risk allowance of Rs 1,000. While the state government bears the honorarium, 60 per cent of the balance amount is borne by the centre.
"Our honorarium was raised from Rs 1,000 to Rs 6,000 by the previous LDF government in five years," explained Prema. Though there is a huge change in the distribution of honorarium and incentives for the past four to five months, it is not given on time even now.
In Malappuram, the incentive for March has not been distributed, as is the case with the honorarium and the incentive for April. In Kozhikode too, the incentive and honorarium for April is yet to be credited. But in Kasaragod, the same has been cleared till April.